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On Trying to Work in the Name of a Festival Sponsor (Without Compromising One's Journalistic Integrity)

Thompson on Hollywood By Lisa Nesselson | Thompson on Hollywood June 3, 2013 at 3:52PM

Since I was a teenager, I've wondered why Coke and Pepsi still have to advertise. Is there anyone who knows what a carbonated beverage is who isn't already aware of these two iconic brands of cola? How hard is it to taste both and decide if a personal preference emerges or that either (or neither) one will do?
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Mouton Cadet Cannes

Since I was a teenager, I've wondered why Coke and Pepsi still have to advertise. Is there anyone who knows what a carbonated beverage is who isn't already aware of these two iconic brands of cola? How hard is it to taste both and decide if a personal preference emerges or that either (or neither) one will do?

When I sailed on a shipboard college called World Campus Afloat back in 1973, the one thing that could be relied upon when our vessel docked most anywhere in Asia or the South Pacific was that entrepreneurial youngsters would greet us with cola drinks, on the universal assumption that Americans run on the stuff the way (most) cars run on gasoline.

And yet, apparently, if Coke or Pepsi cut back on their advertising, sales do, in fact, go down.

What does this have to do with cinema or the recently ended 66th Cannes Film Festival?

It so happens that a wine company that makes very tasty (that's a technical oenophile term) wine and has done so for some time is an official sponsor of the Cannes Film Festival. I imagine it would be difficult to find anybody with taste buds who doesn't agree that, grapes and climate willing, they make an excellent product.

In conjunction with their status as the official wine purveyor of the Festival for over 20 years, they run a cozy penthouse with lovely views atop the roof of the Palais des Festivals.  It is used for junkets and intimate meals and jury-related relaxation out of the spotlight. It serves a purpose in addition to serving libations in honor of the gods of cinema.

Before the Festival got underway, the publicist in charge of the area this year wanted to know whether I might be able to highlight the company's very nice rooftop oasis in some manner.

As a recipient of public funding, the French television station I work for is not permitted to cite brand names.

I really didn't see a way to casually shoehorn in a mention. If my drawing board had fit in my Cannes-bound luggage, I'd have gone back to it.

As it turns out, at 6 p.m.on May 25th, the day before the awards were announced, the publicist invited me to trek up to the roof for a drink.  Stemware in hand, I enjoyed a consistently interesting conversation with  Géraud de la Noue who is managing director of Baron Philippe de Rothschild France Distribution. (Admit it, those are very nice-sounding names. You can understand why Lars Trier added the "von.")

This article is related to: Cannes Film Festival, Features


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.